Mongeese feed quickly, lower jaws snapping open and shut while their heads move side to side to scan the surroundings constantly.
Through the kitchen window my wife watched a small mongoose suddenly dart behind a plant pot and back out with a small three-striped mouse in its jaws. It fled with its prey when it saw her.
It ran past a bigger mongoose which snatched the mouse away. Then it played with the mouse as a cat does until it became bored and ate it. The small mongoose made no attempt to retrieve its catch.
Mongeese prowling the garden are now a regular sight. They emerge from the scrub and dash at high speed across the lawn, pausing suddenly to stand erect on hind legs and scan all around.
Ours are the Cape grey or small grey mongoose which rejoices in the name Galerella pulverulenta and are common in the Cape Peninsula. They belong to the family Viverridae which
includes civets, genets and those ever-popular television characters the suricates of the Kalahari desert.
They are not plain grey. Their rich, sleek coats are flecked with an exotic touch of white hair. Their feet are dark as if gloved. This gives them the savoir-vivre of royalty gliding up the red carpet, as Liz the Lens put it.
Their highly functional design confers beauty. The adult is about two thirds of a metre long, or a little over two feet, of which nearly half is a long furry tail that expands like a bottle brush when its owner is excited or threatened.
A pair of extremely bright black button eyes stares straight ahead down a sharp triangular face with a pointed nose. Half-disc ears aim forward on the sides of a head which can swivel almost 360 degrees.
Incongruously, when the mongoose opens its mouth wide to yawn or take in food, the inside is bright yellow.
Getting to know them, to persuade them to relax enough for us to observe them closely, was an exercise in animal psychology. That is not as scientific as it sounds because with wild animals psychology is usually spelt “food”.
They are ordinarily very shy and steer clear of humans. Reading up about them, we learned they like eggs and play havoc among the nesting sites of the African jackass penguin in a small Peninsula reserve, to the distress of the rangers there.
To be continued next Friday – Mongeese Part 3 ……